The full slate for the 2017 Big Ten/ACC Challenge was announced on Thursday morning, and it is, frankly, disappointing.
The best team in the Big Ten is Michigan State — they might be the best team in college basketball next season — and instead of drawing Duke, Miami or Louisville, potential top ten teams that are on the road in this year’s event, the Spartans will be hosting Notre Dame. The Irish are a borderline top 25 team with Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson coming back, but this is still somewhat disappointing.
Northwestern, who may actually be the second-best team in the Big Ten next season, will be paying a visit to Georgia Tech. Indiana, the Big Ten’s biggest brand that may finish in the bottom four of the conference in Archie Miller’s first season at the helm, drew Duke at home; the Blue Devils should be the odds-on favorite to win the league.
But through all my complaining, there should be a couple of good matchups, namely Miami at Minnesota. The Hurricanes are ranked 6th in the NBC Sports Preseason top 25 while Minnesota is ranked 13th. That will be a matchup between two teams with excellent guard play. Louisville, a top ten team entering the season, will pay a visit to Purdue, who is a borderline top 25 team, while defending national champions North Carolina will host Michigan.
So there will be some games worth watching.
But the event is going to lack the kind of marquee games we are used to seeing:
Northwestern at Georgia Tech
Duke at Indiana
Notre Dame at Michigan State
Miami at Minnesota
Penn State at NC State
Boston College at Nebraska
Michigan at North Carolina
Clemson at Ohio State
Louisville at Purdue
Florida State at Rutgers
Maryland at Syracuse
Wisconsin at Virginia
Iowa at Virginia Tech
Illinois at Wake Forest
2017-18 College Basketball Preseason Top 25: Post Early Entry Deadline
The NCAA’s deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft for early entry candidates that have not signed with an agent came and went last night, and while a few of the decisions took us right up to the deadline, it mostly played out the way it was expected to.
Some big names returned. Some surprising names left.
Next season’s top 25 is awful uninspiring. There also isn’t anything close to a clear-cut No. 1 team, although the consensus at this point seems to be that Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas, despite their flaws, are the three best teams in the country in some order.
Drop us a line here or @CBTonNBC if you see any names missing.
Here is the top 25:
1. Michigan State
Who’s gone: Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III
Who do they add: Jaren Jackson, Xavier Tillman
Projected starting lineup: Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Nick Ward
I like this Michigan State team a lot. Nick Ward was a beast last year and Jaren Jackson is the perfect sidekick. Cassius Winston and Josh Langford will both take a step forward. The key, however, is that a potential Player of the Year in Miles Bridges opted to return to school.
Who’s gone: Lauri Markkanen, Kadeem Allen, Kobi Simmons, Chance Comanche
Who do they add: Deandre Ayton, Emmanuel Akot*, Brandon Randolph, Ira Lee, Alex Barcello, Dylan Smith
The Wildcats add the most talented big man in the class in Deandre Ayton, as well as Emmanuel Akot and Brandon Randolph. The reason they’re a top five team, however is the return of Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins.
Who’s gone: Frank Mason II, Josh Jackson, Landen Lucas
Who do they add: Malik Newman, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe
Projected starting lineup: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Billy Preston, Udoka Azuibuike
The Jayhawks are going to have a lot to replace, but they do have some players coming in. With Devonte’ Graham back, I think he’ll be a star and all-Big 12 player at the point, and he’ll be joined by a former top 10 prospect in Malik Newman and a current top ten prospect in Billy Preston.
Who do they add: Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jemarl Baker
Projected starting lineup: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo*, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards
Kentucky is a tough team to peg for next season. They should be really good defensively — Hamidou Diallo and Jarred Vanderbilt are elite defenders — and insanely athletic, but it’s going to be another year where we don’t know who shoots it for Kentucky. Adding Knox is big.
Who’s gone: Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III, Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson
Who do they add: Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Alex O’Connell, Trevon Duval, Jordan Tucker
Getting Grayson Allen back for his senior year is huge because Duke lost a lot of talent early to the draft, and that doesn’t include missing out on five-star forward Kevin Knox, but landing Trevon Duval is the difference-maker for them. They finally have a point guard to replace Tyus Jones.
Who’s gone: Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy
Who do they add: Lonnie Walker, Chris Lykes, Deng Gak, Sam Waardenburg
Projected starting lineup: Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker, Anthony Lawrence, Dewan Huell
Losing Reed and Murphy will hurt, but Bruce Brown was one of the best-kept secrets last year, Lonnie Walker is a big-time scorer and Dewan Huell is a former top 30 prospect in line for a big bump in minutes this year. Jim Larrañaga is exactly the coach to take advantage of this guard-heavy lineup, too.
Who’s gone: Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, Justin Leon, Devin Robinson
Who do they add: Isaiah Stokes, Egor Koulechov, Chase Johnson, DeAundre Ballard, Michael Okauru, Jalen Hudson, Dontay Bassett
Projected starting lineup: Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov, Kevarrius Hayes, John Egbunu
Coming off of a trip to the Elite 8, the Gators bring back most of their key pieces while adding a talented recruiting class and two players that redshirted last season. Two keys to this team’s ceiling: The health of John Egbunu, who missed the second half of last season, and the development of KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza.
Who’s gone: Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch, Tony Hicks, Jaylen Johnson, Donovan Mitchell
Who do they add: Brian Bowen, Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, Lance Thomas
Projected starting lineup: Quentin Snider, VJ King, Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud
Louisville has a chance to be very, very good next season, particularly now that Deng Adel is back and Brian Bowen is in the mix. If guys like VJ King, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud take a step forward, the Cardinals might compete for an ACC title. That says a lot this year.
The Wildcats are going to take a major hit with Josh Hart finally graduating, but the good news is that Jay Wright is still around, as is Jalen Brunson. Omari Spellman getting eligible will help, and I know I’m not the only one that thinks Donte DiVincenzo has a chance to develop into an all-Big East player.
10. Wichita State
Who’s gone: No one
Who do they add: Samajae Haynes-Jones, Asbjorn Midtgaard
The Shockers finished the season ranked in the top ten at KenPom, but ended up with a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament because they struggled to get used to each other early on in the season. With everyone returning from last year’s team, don’t be surprised to see Gregg Marshall’s team as a Final Four contender.
Who do they add: Derek Culver, Brandon Knapper, D’Angelo Hunter, Teddy Allen, Wesley Harris
Projected starting lineup: Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, Sagaba Konate
At this point, I’m just going to assume that Bobby Huggins is going to put a good team on the floor regardless of the situation. The names don’t even matter, although Jevon Carter is back for what feels like his 17th season in college hoops while Esa Ahmad seems primed for a monster year.
Who’s gone: Charles Buggs
Who do they add: Derryck Thornton, Charles O’Bannon, Jordan Usher
Projected starting lineup: Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Elijah Stewart, Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu
There is a lot of talent on the USC roster for now, especially now that Metu, Stewart and Boatwright are all returning. The Trojans will push Arizona for the Pac-12 title if they decide to defend.
Who’s gone: Akeem Springs
Who do they add: Isaiah Washington, Jamir Harris, Davonte Fitzgerald
Projected starting lineup: Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy, Reggie Lynch
The Golden Gophers bring everyone back from last season, a year where they were one of the most surprising teams in the country. Minnesota could win the Big Ten.
Who’s gone: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton
Who do they add: Jaylen Hands, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill, Chris Smith
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Bruins move on from the Lonzo Ball era. It will also be interesting to see how LaVar Ball handles the fact that LiAngelo Ball isn’t Lonzo. Jaylen Hands and Aaron Holiday will be an elite back court.
Who’s gone: Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson
Who do they add: Keith Williams, Trevor Moore, Eliel Nsoseme, Cane Broome
Projected starting lineup: Cane Broome, Jarron Cumberland, Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington
The Bearcats return a lot of important pieces from a team that won 30 games last season. Broome averaged 23 points for Sacred Heart as a sophomore.
Who do they add: Jaleek Felton, Cameron Johnson, Sterling Manley, Brandon Huffman, Andrew Platek, Garrison Brooks
Projected starting lineup: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks
The Tar Heels are coming off of back-to-back national title game appearances, but they lose three key seniors from that team as well as Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley. Berry will be a National Player of the Year contender and Luke Maye will move into the starting lineup. Will Cam Johnson be eligible to play?
Who’s gone: Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews, Zach Collins
Who do they add: Jacob Larsen, Zach Norvell, Corey Kispert, Jesse Wade
Projected starting lineup: Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams III, Killian Tillie
With Nigel Williams-Goss gone, the key to Gonzaga’s season will be the development of Josh Perkins. Can he play the point full-time and do it successfully?
Who’s gone: Sanjay Lumpkin, Nathan Taphorn
Who do they add: Anthony Gaines, Aaron Falzon, Rapolas Ivanauskas
The Wildcats, a year removed from their first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, bring back essentially everyone from last season and get Aaron Falzon healthy. Bryant McIntosh will contend for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Who’s gone: Nick King, Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale, Corban Collins
Who do they add: Collin Sexton, John Petty, Daniel Giddens
Projected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, John Petty, Dazon Ingram, Braxton Key, Daniel Giddens
The Crimson Tide bring back a talented young core and add two five-star guards, including Collin Sexton, who could lead the conference in scoring.
22. Notre Dame
Who’s gone: Steve Vasturia, VJ Beachem
Who do they add: DJ Harvey, Nikola Djogo
Projected starting lineup: Matt Farrell, Temple Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, Bonzie Colson, Martinas Geben
At this point, I’m fine betting on Brey to have Notre Dame in the mix every year. They’re going to need Rex Pfleuger and Temple Gibbs to take a step forward, but Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell can carry the Irish.
23. Virginia Tech
Who’s gone: Seth Allen, Zach LeDay
Who do they add: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Wabissa Bede
Projected starting lineup: Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs, Chris Clarke, Khadim Sy
The Hokies return all five starters from last season despite the fact that the team graduates their top two scorers. A healthy Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear will help.
24. Saint Mary’s
Who’s gone: Joe Rahon, Dane Pineau
Who do they add: Kristers Zoriks, Malik Fitts, Cullen Neal
The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close. The transfer market is slowly winding down.
In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2017-18 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the SEC over the next six months.
1. This is the youngest Kentucky team that John Calipari has ever had: Eight of the top nine scorers from Kentucky’s 2-16-17 team are gone, either off to the professional ranks or via graduation, meaning that there are really only two sources of experience on this team: Wenyen Gabriel, who averaged fewer than five points in 18 minutes as a freshman last season, and Hamidou Diallo, who is a redshirt freshman that enrolled at the school in the middle of last year and very nearly made the choice to enter the NBA Draft.
Put another way, Kentucky lost 80.8 points per game off of last year’s team, and there were all of 26 teams in college basketball that averaged more points than that last season. The last time he dealt with something like this was in 2013, when his most senior returnee was Kyle Wiltjer. That incoming recruiting class, however, was not what this class is. He has five five-star prospects enrolling — Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, P.J. Washington, Nick Richards and Quade Green — along with a pair of four-star recruits as well as Diallo, who is technically still a freshman.
It’s not a secret that the best teams have a combination of one-and-done stars alongside talented veterans. Can Cal buck that trend?
2. So where does Kentucky actually get offense from this year?: The most concerning thing about Kentucky isn’t necessarily their age, it’s the fact that they don’t have a difference-maker offensively. The best players on their team next season are all great athletes with physical tools and a chance to be terrific defenders, but where are they going to get points from? Can a team with this much youth consistently win games in the 50s and 60s? Who is going to make a perimeter shot?
3. How does Florida bounce back after their Final Four run?: A year after getting back to the Final Four for the first time in the post-Billy Donovan era, the Gators look like they have another top ten team this season. Mike White lost a handful of key pieces off last year’s team, but with KeVaughn Allen back in the fold, Chris Chiozza at the point and a handful of quality transfers and freshmen entering the fray, it’s not crazy to think that Florida and not Kentucky is best built for a run at the SEC title.
4. Alabama is the latest SEC also-ran to land a monster recruiting class. Can they turn that into wins?: It’s not a secret that the SEC has programs that have been able to land impressive recruiting classes in the past. We’ve seen LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and Mississippi State all land five-star prospects and impressive classes in recent years, but that influx of talent has yet to manifest itself in wins on the floor. The Crimson Tide are the latest in that group, as Avery Johnson brought in a pair of five-star recruits in Collin Sexton and John Petty; Sexton is a top ten prospect. They may be in a better position than anyone team before them, as the Tide bring back essentially everyone from a team that won 10 SEC games and had everything except offensive firepower.
Will that recruiting finally pay off?
5. What happens with Jontay Porter?: That’s the big question with Missouri at this point. Michael Jr.’s younger brother has sprouted into a 6-foot-10 monster, a five-star prospect in the Class of 2018 that should be able to have an immediate impact on the program whenever he does arrive on campus. The question is whether or not he wants to fast-forward the timeline, enrolling in school this fall and playing with his brother during his only season on campus. That addition would be mammoth for Cuonzo Martin, because he still has a talent deficient roster that desperately needs bodies.
6. Texas A&M has long had the pieces, but do they finally come together?: The Aggies look like a team destined to make noise this year. Robert Williams, a potential lottery pick, returned to school, as did Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder. They’ve added Duane Wilson as well as a pair of point guards. This is the year for them to make a run, which is more or less what we’ve been saying about Billy Kennedy’s program for the last three years. At what point does it finally all come together?
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri: What else is there to say about Michael Porter Jr. at this point? He might be the best prospect not currently in the NBA. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with absurd athleticism and the ability to step out and knock down a three. The big question is if his presence alone is going to be enough to get Missouri back into the NCAA tournament conversation.
Collin Sexton, Alabama: There is so much to like about Sexton. As a player, he’s as good of a scorer as you’ll find coming in as a freshman. He’s a sneaky bet to lead the SEC in scoring and, along with John Petty, should be able to provide Avery Johnson with the scoring pop he lacked last season. As a person, Sexton is a maniac during games. He talks to himself, he talks to opponents, he plays with his heart on his sleeve. It’s quite entertaining. Hopefully Alabama fans will show out to see this kid. He may not be there long.
Kentucky’s team: The whole thing is going to be new. The most experienced player on the roster is Wenyen Gabriel, who averaged 4.6 points in 18 minutes last season. Starting over with a bunch of teenagers has always been the MO for the Wildcats, but having a total lack of veterans is something new and, frankly, something that is somewhat concerning.
J.J. and Jay Jay, Texas A&M: The Aggies had a team last season that looked like it would be able to make some noise in the SEC, and for the most part, that roster has remained intact for this year. The big difference, however, is that they might finally have a point guard after struggling to find someone to fill that role last year. J.J. Caldwell, a redshirt freshman, and Jay Jay Chandler, a true freshman, will battle it out for minutes. Their success might determine A&M’s ceiling.
Will Wade, LSU: Johnny Jones didn’t do any favors for his successor, as the roster was gutted before Will Wade walked in the door from VCU. The good news for Wade? He landed a four-star point guard prospect in Tremont Waters, but that’s not going to change the fact that he has quite a bit of work to do before the Tigers are back in the mix in the SEC.
Cuonzo Martin, Missouri: On the surface, it looked like the situation that Martin was taking over in Columbia was going to be an ugly one. Kim Anderson left the cupboard bare. And then Martin went out and hired Michael Porter Sr., earning him commitments from both of his five-star sons, while adding a couple more talented prospects. The big name is Michael Jr. He might end up being the best player in college basketball next season, and that’s a nice luxury to have in the midst of a rebuild.
WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri (Player of the Year)
Collin Sexton, Alabama
KeVaughn Allen, Florida
Yante Maten, Georgia
Robert Williams, Texas A&M
WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS
Kentucky: John Calipari is going to have his work cut out for him, and it’s rarely going to be pretty basketball that his team plays this season, but winning games in the 50s and 60s is still winning games. It will be interesting to see how Coach Cal handles coaching a team where the elder statesmen are a sophomore that averaged 4.6 points and a redshirt freshman.
Florida: The Gators are a year removed from a trip to the Final Four, and while they will enter this season without Kasey Hill and Devin Robinson, there are still enough pieces in play for them to have a shot at winning the SEC. The key is going to be John Egbunu’s health. How does he recover from last year’s torn ACL?
Alabama: Last year, Alabama played a slow, stifling defensive style and couldn’t score. This year, they added a pair of five-star freshmen, one of whom — Collin Sexton — will be in the mix as the SEC’s leading scorer. I think they’re a top 20 team nationally.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have the talent to be a top 25 team this season. That much is clear. The question is whether the two J.J.’s will be good enough at the point guard spot that Billy Kennedy can get this group back to the NCAA tournament.
Missouri: Michael Porter Jr. That’s really all you need to know at this point. He’s probably going to be the best player in the conference this season — there are NBA front office people that would take him No. 1 in this draft if they could. The question is going to be whether or not Cuonzo Martin can find a way to make it work with him and if his supporting cast will be good enough.
Arkansas: The Hogs lost Moses Kingsley after last season, but there is some young talent on this roster. The question is whether or not Mike Anderson is actually going to be able to have sustained success with that talent.
Georgia: Mark Fox is a criminally underrated basketball coach that will have arguably the best player in the SEC on his roster in Yante Maten. I’m not quite sure how he gets it done, but I think he keeps the Bulldogs relevant in the conference.
Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy always seems to find a way to get the Rebels somewhere around 20 wins and a .500 or better record in the SEC. He loses Sebastian Saiz, but with Deandre Burnett back, Ole Miss should be able to make some noise.
Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew somehow got Vanderbilt into the NCAA tournament last season and will return a number of key pieces from that team.
Mississippi State: Is this the year that Ben Howland’s talent stockpile finally pays off in the form of wins? Quinndary Weatherspoon is a first-team all-SEC talent that leads a roster loaded with former four-star recruits.
Auburn: Like Mississippi State, the Tigers have some talent on their roster. Mustapha Heron is back, and Danjel Purifoy should take a step forward. The midseason addition of Austin Wiley will likely payoff more this season. I can see Auburn making the NCAA tournament and I can see them finishing the year at .500.
South Carolina: Not only did South Carolina graduate Sindarius Thornwell, they lost P.J. Dozier to the NBA. We’ll see if Hassani Gravett and Delaware transfer Kory Holden can fill those holes.
Tennessee: The Vols are in a tough spot. They lost a couple of key pieces off of last year’s team while the rest of the bottom of the league looks like it is going to take a step forward. That said, if the pieces fall right, I can see Rick Barnes finishing the year in the top half of the league; 6-13 in this league is a toss-up. Keep an eye on the duo of Grant Williams and John Fulkerson.
LSU: Yes, the Tigers brought in Will Wade, and yes, they landed a commitment from Tremont Waters, but this is still a team with quite a bit of work to do before they are relevant again.
NEW YORK (AP) — Junior guard Federico Mussini has decided to leave St. John’s to pursue a professional basketball career in Europe.
Mussini, who averaged 9.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists, over the past two seasons, made the announcement Tuesday. The native of Reggio Emilia, Italy, played in 62 games, starting 25. He made 112 3-pointers and shot 85.9 percent at the free throw line.
A Big East All-Academic Team selection, Mussini averaged 8.2 points while playing 19.2 minutes in 30 games last season. He finished second on the team with 56 3-pointers on 42.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Dr. Robert Robbins, just days into his tenure as the new University of Arizona president, was emphatic in stating that Sean Miller, Arizona’s superstar head coach, will not be Thad Matta’s replacement at Ohio State.
“The Ohio State University is great university, but they are not going to get Coach Miller,” Robbins told The Arizona Republic. “They will have to come over me to get him, as the saying goes, over my dead body.”
Miller has been one of the popular names linked with the opening since Matta was fired by OSU on Monday afternoon, and Buckeye athletic director Gene Smith would be foolish not to give Miller or his agent a call.
You never know.
But it is and always would be a long shot. Let’s ignore the fact, for a second, that Miller is arguably the nation’s best head coach under the age of 60, he’s already at a program that may be a better job than Ohio State. He’s living in Tucson — warm winters are better than snow for five months of the year — and currently recruiting at a rate that can only be topped by John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski. Oh, and his brother was just hired by Indiana, meaning that he would leave a great job for a chance to compete with his brother year in and year out?
That just doesn’t make any sense.
Most people in coaching circles think that, eventually, Miller will leave Arizona, but it won’t be for Ohio State. It will be for North Carolina, or Kentucky, or Louisville, or Duke. It will be to a place with a prestigious basketball history where he can cement his name as one of the titans of the sport.
So don’t worry, Dr. Robbins.
Miller won’t be stepping over your dead body anytime soon.